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Doctors discover two-year-old’s potentially fatal heart condition after he choked on popcorn kernel

A two-year-old boy whose lung collapsed after he choked on a piece of popcorn was given life-saving surgery after a scan revealed he also had a potentially fatal heart condition.  

Jordy Gordon from Fort William, Scotland, was eating popcorn when he choked and unknowingly inhaled a kernel, obstructing his airways.

After he developed a continuous cough the toddler’s mother took him to hospital, believing he was suffering a chest infection.

However scans revealed that a small popcorn kernel had caused one of Jordy’s lungs to collapse. 

Jordy Gordon from Fort William, Scotland, was eating popcorn when he choked and unknowingly inhaled a kernel, obstructing his airways – seen after his heart operation in 2016

The youngster was kept in for treatment but after a follow-up scan to check his lung function doctors discovered a potentially-fatal heart condition – Jordy’s pulmonary veins were in the wrong place. 

Doctors warned Jordy’s mother Shona Macgillivray, 35, that the little one could ‘drop dead’ at any moment as he wasn’t getting enough oxygen and scheduled him for open heart surgery.

Jordy underwent a 12-hour operation to reposition the veins – and is now completely healthy. 

Ms Macgillivray fears the heart condition would never have been discovered if Jordy hadn’t inhaled the snack.

Jordy, now seven, has made a full recovery after it was discovered he had a potentially fatal heart condition and he underwent open heart surgery

Jordy, now seven, has made a full recovery after it was discovered he had a potentially fatal heart condition and he underwent open heart surgery

Brave Jordy is seen after his open heart surgery

Jordy proudly posing with his scars after making a recovery

Brave Jordy is seen after his open heart surgery (left) and proudly posing with his scars after making a recovery (right) 

The early years practitioner said: ‘I now think of that popcorn as both a blessing and a curse, as it showed us what was wrong.’  

Jordy was just two years old when he enjoyed some popcorn before mum-of-two Ms Macgillivray went to work on February 25 2015.

Jordy's scar from open heart surgery

Jordy’s scar from open heart surgery

She said: ‘I left him with my mum looking after him, who told me he was a bit chesty that day, but when I got home I didn’t think anything of it.’

The next day Jordy was still coughing so Ms Macgillivray took him to the doctors who assured her it was likely just a chest infection, she said.

But at about 11pm that night Jordy’s coughing was getting worse so she took him to A&E at Belford Hospital in Fort William.

She said: ‘They monitored his oxygen levels and saw it was very low, so they gave him a few puffs of the brown inhaler but that didn’t help, so they put him on a breathing machine.’

He was transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, driven by Ms Macgillivray with her partner Michael Gordon, 34, and they arrived at about 2am.

Ms Macgillivray said: ‘The doctor randomly asked us if he had eaten any popcorn, and I said that he had the day before.

‘He must have seen something like that before – I’m always getting tagged by my friends in stories about children choking on bits of popcorn.’

Jordy eventually coughed up the kernel, and a scan showed one of his lungs had fully collapsed.

Jordy in hospital during the ordeal. His mother has said she is grateful that the condition was discovered due to the popcorn incident

Jordy in hospital during the ordeal. His mother has said she is grateful that the condition was discovered due to the popcorn incident

Michael Gordon, Jordy Gordon, Rhys Gordon, and Shona Macgillivray (left to right)

Michael Gordon, Jordy Gordon, Rhys Gordon, and Shona Macgillivray (left to right)

He was transferred to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow where his lung re-inflated, his oxygen levels recovered, and he was allowed home a few days later.

But six months later a routine follow up x-ray revealed abnormalities, and he was sent for an MRI, ECG and ultrasound.

In January 2016 he was diagnosed with scimitar syndrome – an underlying heart condition where his pulmonary veins are in the wrong place.

Ms Macgillivray said: ‘We spoke to the doctors who told us that loads of things can go wrong during surgery, but if he didn’t have it he could just drop dead at some point maybe in his late teens or early twenties.’

Jordy, who is now 'completely back to normal' and able to do everything else other children can, his mother said

Jordy, who is now ‘completely back to normal’ and able to do everything else other children can, his mother said

Doctors said there was a chance he might not survive the operation or be left disabled by the operation, but he went under the knife in July 2016.

The 12 hour surgery at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow saw doctors cut through his chest to reposition his pulmonary veins.

Ms Macgillivray said: ‘It was the worst day of my life. It was awful – I walked in, burst into tears, and then walked back out again.

‘It was like he was comatose and wasn’t really aware of what was going on.’

Six days after he was admitted for his surgery, Jordy came home to his mum, dad and older brother Rhys, now ten, after making a full recovery.

Ms Macgillivray said: ‘He’s completely back to normal and can do anything a normal child can do.

‘Before his operation and before we knew anything was wrong, Jordy would sleep for three hours every afternoon.

‘I thought it was just who he was, but now we know it is because he just wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his blood.’

Now aged seven, Jordy likes to show off all his impressive scars from his surgery and has to have scans every few years.


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